Nearly a year after Geron (Nasdaq: GERN ) said it was shuttering its stem cell program, the biotech has a buyer if it wants.
Buyer being a relative term.
BioTime (NYSEMKT: BTX ) agreed to take over the program, but Geron wouldn't get anything in return. The proposal is basically a spinout combining BioTime's and Geron's stem-cell assets. BioTime also plans to contribute $40 million worth of its stock, which would presumably be sold to fund the program. The new entity also plans to sell shares to raise additional capital.
Geron's shareholders would own 21.4% of the new company, which could increase to 45% if they purchase additional shares in the spinoff. BioTime is also willing to give Geron's shareholders warrants to buy shares of BioTime.
BioTime proposed the deal in a letter to Geron's shareholders encouraging them to push the board into approving the transaction. Not said, but implied, is that BioTime has probably run the deal (or something similar) by Geron's board, which must have rejected the offer. On Friday, Geron acknowledged BioTime's proposal and said the board would consider it.
My guess is the board won't accept the public offer. Geron's management decided that the cancer program is the most important thing, and this deal doesn't bring in any cash to help the program. Canceling the stem cell program certainly helped with the cash burn, but Geron is still running five phase 2 clinical trials and only had $122 million in the bank at the end of the second quarter.
Getting cash for the program should be the No. 1 priority for investors. If you own Geron at this point, it should primarily be because you have confidence in the cancer program.
Of course, it's been a year and none of the big boys like GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK ) , Pfizer (NYSE: PFE ) , and Teva Pharmaceuticals (NYSE: TEVA ) -- which all have varying degrees of stem cell programs -- have stepped up to purchase the assets. At some point, getting something, even from a podunk biotech, is better than nothing from a shareholder's perspective.
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